The Middle East beckons for Mitchelton-SCOTTThu 21 Feb 2019
Mitchelton-SCOTT head to the Middle East for the next stop on the World Tour calendar, with a strong seven-rider squad hunting for success at the first ever edition of the UAE Tour.
The race will see two new members of the team make their debuts as American Brent Bookwalter and former two-time Ethiopian national road race champion, Tsgabu Grmay line-up on the start line in Al Hudayriat Island.
Michael Albasini - (SUI, 38)
Jack Bauer - (NZL, 33)
Sam Bewley - (NZL, 31)
Brent Bookwalter - (USA, 35)
Tsgabu Grmay - (ETH, 27)
Luka Mezgec - (SLO, 30)
Callum Scottson - (AUS, 22)
For 2019, the Dubai Tour and the Tour of Abu Dhabi have mergered, resulting in a brand new seven stage race that uses stages from the previous individual tours.
The race will open with a team trial for the first time in its history as the 20 teams present tackle a 16km course on the recently opened Al Hudayriat Island. The following day looks set to be one for the sprinters, with 184km’s of flat roads along the Abu Dhabi coastline on the menu.
The third stage also begins on flat roads, until the peloton reach the 165km marker and the road ramps up sharply for the first summit finish of the tour. The race will then see the pack move onto rolling roads for the next two stages, with a number of bumps along the way that could present a chance for attacks.
Stage six offers a similar profile to stage three, with around 150km of flat roads ahead of an uphill kick to the finish line in Jebel Jais. The sprinters will be back out to play on the final stage as the tour rounds off a week of racing, with a 145km route that ends in the city of Dubai.
Previous winners of the Abu Dhabi Tour world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates) will both return to the Middle East in 2019, with the latter hoping to put on a performance at his team’s home race. 2018 Tour de France stage winner, Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) will begin his season at the UAE Tour and the Slovenian will be another man to watch when the race heads uphill.
Mitchelton-SCOTT won the first ever Abu Dhabi Tour in 2015, with Colombian Esteban Chaves securing the overall victory on the summit finish on stage three.
The team have also enjoyed sprint success in Abu Dhabi, with former rider Caleb Ewan taking a stage win at the 2017 event.
“I’m ready to go! A lot of the guys on the team already have a handful of race days in their legs and I feel like I’ve done some good work in training, so I’m ready to see where I’m at.”
“I’ve been happy to be training away, especially with the transition to new bikes and equipment, it’s been nice to have a little bit more time to get ready for the season.”
“As for the race, there’s four really interesting stages and then three more days that always have the threat of wind in the desert, but should end in sprints.”
“It’s the most dynamic Middle East race we’ve ever seen, I’ve done all of them, Qatar, Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, I’ve done all those individually and they’re usually just standard, classic desert affairs with lots of flat racing with maybe one little uphill kick. However, this race has got two really solid summit finishes with full-on mountain climbs and a team time trial.”
Dave McPartland – Sports Director:
“The TTT on stage one is an important first step to start the tour if we want to put our GC riders in a good position. It’s quite possible that there will only be three stages where the GC is decided, and this is one of them. Sure, we’re not the favourites here, but we can do a decent TTT with the guys we are bringing.”
“The Jebel Hafeet stage was the key in deciding the overall in previous editions of the Abu Dhabi Tour, but it’s only one of three critical GC days this year. Along with Jebel Jais and the TTT you need to be good across all three of those now. Having said that, this race can be split wide open if it’s windy regardless of the stage, so it’s concentration for seven days from everyone.”
“We go there with guys for the overall and for the flat days, with Tsgabu for the GC and Luka for the days that finish in a sprint.”
2019 UAE Tour – Race Details:
Sunday, 24th Feb: Stage 1, Al Hudayriat – Al Hudayriat, 16km TTT
Monday, 25th Feb: Stage 2, Yas Island – Abu Dhabi Big Flag, 184km
Tuesday, 26th Feb: Stage 3, UAE University – Jebel Hafeet, 179km
Wednesday, 27th Feb: Stage 4, Palm Jumeirah – Hatta Dam, 205km
Thursday, 28th Feb: Stage 5, Flag Island – Khor Fakkan, 181km
Friday, 1st Mar: Stage 6, Ajamn – Jebel Jais, 180km
Saturday, 2nd Mar: Stage 7, Dubai Safari Park – City Walk, 145km
Photos courtesy of Kristof Ramon